With the art world and international press focused on the 2017 Venice Biennale this week, we’re taking a moment to share some of the impressive coverage highlighting Mark Bradford. Bradford represents the U.S. in Venice this year with an exhibition, Tomorrow is Another Day, that the New York Times has dubbed “mythic” in a nod to Bradford’s use and revisioning of traditional Greek mythological themes. Bradford is an organizer of the Clyfford Still Museum portion of our current two-venue exhibition with the Denver Art Museum (DAM), Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford, on view through July 16. “What caught my eye,” said Bradford on Still, “was the insistence of his paintings. His surfaces were more raw and immediate than other abstract expressionist paintings.”
A Mutual Art article, Why Mark Bradford Is the Artist of the Moment, dives into the connection between Bradford and the abstract expressionists. Written by Natalie Hegert, the piece highlights Bradford’s specific affinity for Clyfford Still. “[Shade] reveals more than aesthetic affinities,” writes Hegert. “Bradford’s response to Still’s work, particularly in terms of the prevalence of the color black, has resulted in a series of new works with a darker, more somber palette, and a new technique using black newsprint to stain canvas.”
Published two weeks before the opening of the Venice Biennale, on April 27, a New York Times preview by Jori Finkel details the road leading up to the show’s opening. Finkel visited Bradford in his Los Angeles warehouse studio as he brought his vision for the U.S. pavilion to life, literally, by creating a full-size model. According to Finkel, “a personal sense of crisis” brought on by the current political climate in the U.S. pervades Tomorrow is Another Day, which was named after the last line of Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War novel Gone with the Wind.
Bradford looms tall at the Biennale, a metaphor that extends beyond his actual six-foot-eight-inch frame to include his art work and activism. The Art Newspaper published an article, Activism is top of Venice Biennale’s agenda, on May 12 about Bradford’s activism (Art + Practice), a master class he taught just before the opening of the Venice Biennale, and his pavilion representing the U.S. The article depicts Bradford’s pavilion as a merging of ancient and modern to create something entirely new, fresh and streetwise. “Forget ivory tower, or Camelot,” say reporters Gareth Harris and Javier Pes, and “think grotto and Greek myths meets the scrappy street life of South Los Angeles.”
Rounding out our sampling of news media coverage, Artnet News published an article by Andrea Goldstein comparing Bradford to Clyfford Still’s compatriot in Abstract Expressionism, Jackson Pollock. Mark Bradford is Our Jackson Pollock: Thoughts on His Stellar U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale contends that the most significant thing to come out of Bradford’s representation of the U.S. is that he is the thing America needs most right now, a “Very Important Artist.” Goldstein writes, “[H]is work is filled with rough, hard-fought elegance. He’s improvising, using what’s around him, trying to make something good out of it, and that’s what makes him a great artist.”
Bradford lit up social media channels as well as print and online news this week. Some of our favorites include supermodel (and president of Fashion for Relief) Naomi Campbell’s praise for Bradford via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, was thrilled to see Bradford with Anita Hill and shared a photograph of the two. Hill was a guest speaker during the official U.S. pavilion press conference. This isn’t the first time that Bradford and Hill have teamed up. They gave a talk at the Hammer in August of 2015.